SPRINGFIELD – State Senator Jacqueline Y. Collins (D-Chicago 16th) was pleased to announce the governor signed into law on Friday three pieces of legislation she sponsored to improve the quality of public K-12 education in Illinois.

• House Bill 3199 requires charter schools, which are funded with public dollars, to comply with all state absenteeism and truancy laws applicable to traditional public schools.

• House Bill 4343 extends the deadline for the Illinois Attendance Commission, created by legislation Collins sponsored in 2015, to meet, hold hearings and submit its findings to the General Assembly. The commission has already produced a report that suggests improvements to the way school districts and the state track student attendance. The commission’s findings also call on legislators and educators to devise better strategies for helping families with chronic truancy so their children can stay in school and become prepared for higher education and/or a career. Collins’ sponsorship of the commission was inspired by an alarming Chicago Tribune investigative series that pointed out high truancy rates in Chicago, Rockford and elsewhere in Illinois.

• House Bill 119 prohibits the Chicago Public Schools from denying promotion or graduation to a student with a learning disability who fails a competency test when his or her failing score is directly attributable to his or her disability. To make sure this directive is being enforced and that students with disabilities and learning difficulties are not being wrongly held back, the legislation allows CPS to create a retention committee to consider each request that a student repeat a grade level.

“Our state’s public schools exist to serve students of all incomes, backgrounds and abilities,” Collins said. “Illinois’ children face a variety of challenges to success in school and life, and there’s more we can do to connect them and their families with the resources they need to overcome whatever barriers stand in their way.”

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Category: Frontpage

"We must build on the trust renewed by today's compromise so we can rebuild the infrastructures that give hope to struggling individuals, families and communities."

SPRINGFIELD – State Senator Jacqueline Y. Collins (D-Chicago 16th) issued the following statement after voting for a compromise budget that fully funds K-12 education for the 2016-17 school year and restores state resources for afterschool and employment programs for at-risk youth:

With bipartisan support, the General Assembly and the governor have finally reached a compromise that will allow our schools to open in the fall and will route desperately needed state funds to services for society’s most vulnerable – including afterschool and employment programs for youth at risk of falling victim to the cycle of violence in our inner cities.

Throughout the past year and a half, I’ve been proud to stand with many of my colleagues – particularly those in the Legislative Black Caucus – to insist that our neediest communities not be divested of the resources they require to flourish and provide opportunities to the next generation. We have refused to accept partisanship, brinksmanship and hostage-taking as productive governing strategies, and we have called on colleagues from all points on the political spectrum to join us in working toward a positive and compassionate vision for this beleaguered state.

I am grateful for the opportunity I had today to vote to fund services that are absolutely vital to the quality of life of my constituents and all Illinoisans, including mental health care, addiction treatment, meals for the elderly, rehabilitation for ex-offenders and of course education and mentoring for our most precious resource, our youth. Much of this funding will only carry us through the first six months of the fiscal year, and the sad reality is that many providers have already closed their doors or laid off staff. We must build on the trust renewed by today’s compromise so we can rebuild the infrastructures that give hope to struggling individuals, families and communities.

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Category: Frontpage

CHICAGO – State Senator Jacqueline Y. Collins (D-Chicago 16th) is encouraging Southside parents and anyone concerned about lead found in drinking water at three 16th District elementary schools to attend meetings being held this week to discuss the problem. She also urged a speedy House vote on legislation the Senate passed last month to require lead testing in schools and improved communication with the public in the wake of the preventable drinking water disaster in Flint, Michigan.

“I’m determined that we will learn from Flint and work quickly to protect our young people from this poison,” said Collins, a chief co-sponsor of the legislation (Senate Bill 550). “I commend CPS for its proactive lead testing regimen, and I believe it’s important for parents in our communities to educate themselves about the dangers of lead, ask questions and keep the pressure on until no child is drinking unsafe water.”

Ingestion of lead is associated with serious developmental delays, especially in young children. The danger is more acute in older buildings, where lead pipes and chipping lead-based paint may be found. While there is no safe amount of lead to consume, the federal government has adopted an “action level” of 15 parts per billion as a threshold for mitigation. Senate Bill 550 puts this limit into state law and requires the Illinois Department of Public Health to establish a program to identify lead hazards in schools statewide and make sure they are corrected as quickly as possible. It would create a legal obligation to inform parents and guardians whenever elevated lead levels are found in the drinking water at their children’s schools.

When CPS tested drinking water supplies at Harvard Elementary School, Parker Elementary Community Academy and Wentworth Elementary School, some samples in these buildings contained lead levels that exceeded the federal threshold. The school district is holding meetings around the city this week to discuss the lead testing program and its next steps to protect students from lead. These include a meeting this Thursday at 6 p.m. at Corliss High School at 821 E. 103rd St., and another on Friday at 4 p.m. at Simeon High School at 8147 S. Vincennes Ave. They are free and open to the public.

“I encourage parents and caregivers – especially those with children who attend Harvard, Parker and Wentworth – to attend if possible and to ask tough questions,” Collins said. “I also urge my constituents to join me in asking the House to pass and the governor to sign legislation ensuring no community in Illinois becomes the next Flint.”

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Category: Frontpage

“If our solution involves picking the pockets of the poor and wrongly accused, we have more than just a fiscal problem; we have a moral problem.”

 

99thGALogo webSPRINGFIELD – State Senator Jacqueline Y. Collins (D-Chicago 16th) has secured passage of legislation that expands and eases access to the legal process for the expungement and sealing of criminal records – a major hurdle for individuals seeking to gain employment and move on with their lives after an encounter with the criminal justice system. The measure lifts a ban on expungement petitions by people with prior but unrelated criminal records, eliminates all fees for juveniles applying for expungements and waives fees for individuals in Cook County who were wrongfully arrested or convicted and now seek expungement.

“For the sake of justice, we must end this practice of charging individuals money to clear their names and move on with their lives when our criminal justice system has concluded they did not commit the crime for which they were arrested,” Collins said. “Illinois is suffering from a shortfall in revenue, but if our solution involves picking the pockets of the poor and wrongly accused, we have more than a fiscal problem; we have a moral problem.”

The fee to petition for expungement in Cook County is $120. Collins hopes to expand her pilot program to Illinois’ other counties, where fees can be as high as $400. House Bill 6328, which Collins worked with Representative Art Turner and Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart to craft, would waive fees for juvenile expungement requests statewide. There would be no fee for adults petitioning in Cook County when the individual was arrested but then released without being charged, the charges were dropped or a criminal conviction was reversed. According to Sheriff Dart, 19 percent of those detained in the Cook County Jail at any given time are released after the charges against them are dropped. Finally, the legislation allows individuals to petition for expungement of a new arrest or charge, even if they already had a criminal record.

“These reforms speak to the fundamentals of our justice system, which is based on evidence, not assumptions,” Collins said. “Limiting access to those with no prior record is a policy based on stereotypes and fear, not facts. We must reject laws that create a population assumed to be a criminal class – chained to their past arrest records, always under suspicion and perpetually poor.”

HB 6328 has cleared both chambers and now goes to the governor’s desk.

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